The Wild at Heart (Switch) Review

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It’s always a delight when you can tell that the passionate developers of a video game aren’t hiding what their inspirations are, and when they’re aiming to run with familiar gameplay concepts that aren’t often seen. And that is exactly what Moonlight Kids’ latest game, “The Wild at Heart,” is going for. You could easily describe this title as blending the puzzle gameplay of “Luigi’s Mansion 3” with the resource gathering and crafting of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”, along with a hefty amount of the “Pikmin” series. And to do so would get the idea across to those first hearing of The Wild at Heart. But for a game that has obvious inspirations, it fares well in trying to stick its own neck out in a crowded industry where everyone is trying to be unique.

The word “different” is an appropriate one to describe The Wild at Heart. Players take control of a runaway twelve year-old boy named Wake, who finds himself in a magical wonderland teeming with mythical fauna and is soon tasked with saving the forest from a sinister threat. He and his friend, Kirby, befriend a race of cute creatures called “Spritelings,” who are happy to help out however they can by being thrown at various obstacles, predators, or materials that need to be gathered. Each Spriteling also has its own quirks like being able to stick to nets or create clones. While exploring, Wake and Kirby solve puzzles with their vacuum cleaner-esque gizmos, and also gather materials to craft all sorts of meals, tonics, and devices along the way. Narratively, it’s a simple and serviceable but endearing backdrop that lends itself to players getting to explore a world with a lot of tools at their disposal. Even after my twelve hour adventure, I was interested to go back and find the treasures I had missed on my first go around, or to look for secret areas using new Spritelings I had befriended.

Progress is controlled by a day and night cycle; you explore during the day, and camp at night, avoiding the malicious nocturnal creatures that roam about. However, you’re allowed to explore at night, should you so decide. This small level of freedom made me feel in control of my adventure, and in the later half, I was even allowed to explore at my own free will. I could go anywhere I wanted, not being restricted to a completely linear path, instead being given the option to choose which direction I’d like to go. Playing each day and charting out my agenda hooked me, and I found it difficult to step away from The Wild at Heart once this happened. It’s not only hard to put down, but with the number of hidden treasures, it welcomes replayability. I would have liked to see some sort of ranking to compare my play time to others, and/or my percentage of treasures collected. The game instead avoids arcade-style scoring, and opts to share only the player’s play time on their file. My real complaint with this entire excursion is the execution of the difficulty.

Upon beginning your adventure in the Deep Woods, you are provided the option of choosing between a game where exploration and narrative enjoyment is the focus, or a game where combat is more balanced, and there is a greater emphasis on crafting for survival. I began my adventure in the easy mode to at least get a lay of the land. But I very quickly got bored, and by the end of the tutorial, I had already switched to the harder option, and I am grateful I did because that is where the gameplay mechanics are really shown off. That said, I noticed as I played that I didn’t think the game’s difficulty was necessarily hard because of a well-made challenge, but instead because of minor aggravations that were created pretty arbitrarily. Sure, in hard mode you’re probably going to have to take the extra time to craft some tonics to buff up your army for that formidable boss or well-placed group of baddies that you know can deal some major damage to your team. That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s moments like when the game doesn’t tell you something that you should probably know, and then punishes you for experimenting, that brings down the enjoyment.

For example, I split up my team, and had a group of Spritelings go pick up a treasure to carry back to base. I then had sent a group to carry an object that would unlock more in the main campsite, and I had one last group go collect small resources for me to craft. While these three groups carried out my bidding, I returned to the main camp to see to other affairs. But after a few minutes, I noticed that I had not been notified of my different groups having completed their tasks, so I walked back and to my disappointment, realized that the game had considered my return to camp as abandoning my Spritelings, all of whom were lost to me. After that, I had to grind to replenish my army, and felt just the slightest bit cheated out of what was a moment of experimentation and strategy. It felt like the game wasn’t punishing me for messing up a challenge, but rather smugly telling me to not overstep my bounds in trying to strategize. Spritelings also aren’t able to be thrown all at once or charge an obstacle. You instead have to manually throw them one at a time, using the same stick that is used for movement. So you will inevitably be aiming to throw, and then inadvertently walk into the very obstacle you’re trying to avoid. And like not being able to throw multiple Spritelings, you are unable to dump your pockets into your storage, instead having to empty each individual item, one at a time. If you couple this with a few other annoyances like the thirty-second loading times adding up between the various areas that you very frequently have to sit through, as well as the inconsistent game performance, you’re looking at just a bit of frustration to have to put up with. It’s not even in the ballpark of ruining the game, but it is absolutely worth mentioning as combined these issues did deflate my enjoyment within reason. I had the game crash once on me, and it would slow down every time I had a full army out fighting, too.

One last aspect of the game I would like to touch on is that there is a lack of urgency that I felt was needed. It’s really nice to be able to explore at your own pace in the world—granted with the inclusion of the vaguely designed daytime timer—but I think the trade off here is that it’s absolutely okay to have days where you accomplish nothing. In fact, you could have as many unproductive days as you’d like. The only issue here is that it does conflict a little bit with the narrative’s push for trying to save the forest from a growing threat. At the end of the day, I think it’s still better to have the player be allowed to do whatever they want, but with the inclusion of multiple difficulty options, I would have preferred the inclusion of a limit to the number of days to add some thrill to the experience. Even with these shortcomings, I really think The Wild at Heart was made with a lot of love. Look no further than the art department, which boasts an array of muted colors on a densely drawn cartoon world. The Spritelings, while cute, don’t have the strongest of silhouettes, but they get the idea across quickly on what they are capable of. The friendly faces in the main camp, and even the monsters lurking around the plains are all really silly, and weirdly believable that they would exist in this world. This is also in large part to the way music and sound is handled. The Wild at Heart leans into natural noises, quirky sound effects, and overall a light-hearted romp through the woods. You won’t find any grandiose orchestral sweeps here, and it’s okay because of how well the relaxing music compliments the gameplay.

At the end of my day in The Wild at Heart, I am really happy with the adventure I had. I am going to continue to explore to my own heart’s content, and I look forward to finding every last treasure, missing cat, deep lore page, and mysterious secret. I wish there had been a little more care put into how the difficulty was handled, but even so, this was a really pleasant time. Hopefully this isn’t the last we see of Wake and Kirby, as I expect that there is a lot of room for them to continue to grow into young adults, and there is room to perfect what is otherwise an enjoyable experience.

Source link : Nintendoworldreport

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